Nonpoisonous Snakes in South Carolina


South Carolina provides balmy temperatures throughout most of the year, which enables all 38 of South Carolina's native snake species to warm their cold-blooded bodies. Of South Carolina's 38 snake species, only six of them are venomous species. One distinguishable characteristic between venomous and nonvenomous snakes is the "pit," or groove, between the eyes of venomous snakes. While they don't have venom, nonvenomous snakes still bite when they feel threatened.

Rat Snakes

  • Some of South Carolina's rat snakes include the corn snake -- or red rat snake -- yellow rat snake and black rat snake. The name of these snakes originates from the color of their scales. Rat snakes are among the longest nonvenomous snakes in South Carolina; some of these snakes reach lengths of up to 10 feet. This snake species are constrictors, meaning they kill their prey by coiling around their bodies and squeezing until they have suffocated their prey. A rat snake's primary diet consists of rodents and small birds. In South Carolina, rat snakes are primarily found in the Coastal Plains region.

King Snakes

  • South Carolina's king snakes include the eastern milk snake, mole king snake, scarlet king snake and eastern king snake. King snakes belong in the genus lampropeltis, which means "shiny shield"; this name is given to king snakes because of this species' shiny scales. These snakes kill their prey by constriction, or squeezing their prey until paralysis. The king snakes have the name "king" since they are known for eating other snakes, including venomous species. Milk snakes and scarlet king snakes have a similar resemblance to coral snakes, a venomous snake not found in South Carolina. However, these king snakes have a red and black pattern, as opposed to the coral snake's red and yellow pattern. South Carolina's coastal region is the primary location to find king snakes.

Aquatic Snakes

  • Aquatic snakes are snake species that spend the majority of their lives swimming in freshwater lakes and streams. In South Carolina, these snakes are primarily found in the state's Coastal Plains region. These snakes do not usually live in salt water, since their skin is sensitive to saltwater's saline. Water snakes make up a large portion of South Carolina's aquatic snake population; South Carolina water snakes include the northern water snake, midland water snake, Florida green water snake, banded water snake, redbelly water snake and brown water snake. Other aquatic snake species in the Palmetto State are the glossy crayfish snake and Carolina swamp snake.

Earth Snakes

  • The Palmetto State has two earth snakes -- the smooth earth snake and rough earth snake. As their name suggests, the skin of the smooth earth snake is smoother than the rough earth snake, which has scaly ridges on its skin. Both of these snakes have dark brown scales. Earth snakes receive their name from the fossorial lifestyle; fossorial means these snakes live most of their lives burrowing underneath the earth's surface. The only defense mechanism earth snakes have against ensuing predators is their feces, which possess a particularly pungent odor. These snakes are found throughout the state.


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